XA Wireless Vortex iPhone 4/4S case (90504) review: XA Wireless Vortex iPhone 4/4S case (90504)

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That’s why it was exciting, at first, to receive this accessory from XA Wireless. Its line of bamboo cases, labeled “the Vortex” (don’t ask me why), is made from 100 percent organic material. It comes in 12 variations, each priced at $44.29. Most of them are etched with some uplifting (though at times, eye-roll-inducing) words or messages like, “Life is supposed to be fun,” “I am thankful, I am grateful,” and “Follow your dreams.”

The case comes in two pieces and when assembled together measures 4.75 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide, and 0.5 inch thick. It weighs 0.64 ounces and feels pretty lightweight. The sections are joined together by a small piece of metal that juts out of one portion of the case. The metal then fits into a small groove in the other piece. To ensure that the phone will fit snugly, the case’s back is lined with a black feltlike material for extra friction.

When I first placed the Vortex on an iPhone, it didn’t look too bulky. It’s a lot chunkier than the usual slew of plastic cases out there, but you have to expect a certain amount of bulkiness with wooden or bamboo cases. I was able to fit the whole ensemble into my jean pocket easily.

This XA Wireless Vortex case tells you that life is supposed to be fun. Josh Miller/CNET

However, because the case adds a good amount of thickness all around, pressing down on the handset’s sleep/power button and two volume keys is more difficult when compared with when the phone is au naturel. To get to these keys, I’d either have to use the tip of my finger, or press the flat of my finger down really hard so I’d be able to reach past the case and touch the buttons. Furthermore, you can only use earphones or headphones with slim wires to connect to your device. If your headphones have a thick cord beyond its 3.5mm jack, it won’t be able to get through the case.

The two compartments connect well. They didn’t come apart after I gave it a good shaking and the phone fits firmly into the case. The parts joined cleanly and straight — edges were flush together and there were no crooked seams.

Unfortunately, the etched designs on the back aren’t all that sharp. XA Wireless promises designs that are carved with “breathtaking precision,” but the text I saw looked jaggedy.

Furthermore, as sturdy as it feels, there is one fatal weak point. The thin piece of bamboo that lies at the bottom of the home button and runs up to the dock connector port is easily breakable. After I received the first XA Wireless Vortex case, I pulled on this piece while trying to take the case off the phone, and it broke off. When I received another unit, I gently tugged on the same location, and it too snapped off.

This, ultimately, is a huge a deal breaker. Considering the sort of wear and tear a phone and its accompanying case go through on a daily basis, the fact that this one piece keeps breaking off is irritating. Though the case can still essentially work without this one component, for the price of $45, it’s not worth it.

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.